They don't understand what she's saying

It is our natural instinct to protect our children when we see them having difficulty. When other people are struggling to understand our child’s  speech it can be difficult to stand by and not help them out.

But remember , when under pressure, our kids can surprise us with their resilience and their resourcefulness. I have often seen children at school or nursery use alternative ways to make their voices heard. They will lead others by the hand to what they want, mime what they are trying to say, use pictures and show objects, write things down and try and rephrase things to make it easier for the other person to understand.

Repairing communication breakdown in these ways without our help is a great skill to learn, and something we should encourage. When children can achieve this, it  builds confidence in their own abilities to problem solve.  So if you can, be patient and resist the urge to jump in straight away.

But what can I do if I see them upset?

The key here is to empower your child rather than translate for them.  This means, use techniques to support and scaffold the conversation,  like recasting.

Recasting can be a really powerful tool. It refers to repeating an error-utterance back to someone, but with the error corrected. Here an example

Child: Him’s tar talled Batmobile.

Adult:  That’s right,  his car’s called Batmobile? thats a cool name for a car

This also models the correct pronunciation to your child – without drawing attention to the error or putting them under pressure to repeat correctly. The more a child hears correct language models, the more likely they are to self correct.

Don’t be embarrassed and try not to draw attention to your child’s articulation difficulties. This can lead to frustration or your child ‘opting out’ of communication all together.

Stay calm and educate those around you about how best to support them.


2 replies
  1. Heather Halsey
    Heather Halsey says:

    Hello, a great article. As a parent of a child who no one understood ( apart from myself and sometimes my husband) I would add. 1. Get their hearing tested. You can model all you want but if they can’t hear you it will have a limited impact. 2. Be pushy with the NHS!
    Despite having glue ear my sons hospital won’t give him grommits. Then we moved abroad. His consultant was astounded that he hadn’t been operated on. The difference with the grommits was immediate.
    He has subsequently been diagnosed with a receptive and expressive speech issues. Trust your instinct as a parent when you think something it wrong.
    Ps I think speech and language therapist are AMAZING. Working with his SALT has made such a difference to my son.

    • martha
      martha says:

      Hi Heather – couldn’t agree more!
      It is so important to get your child’s hearing tested, If your child can’t hear a sound they are going to have difficulty producing it…

      A lot of NHS commissioning groups will choose to wait until children have had up to 5 recurrences of glue ear before providing grommets which is a long time to wait – so do be pushy if you can – or ask for the reason behind their decision not to provide grommets.

      I’m so pleased you and your son are getting the support you need now :)


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